Germany’s Sebastian Vettel saw his aspirations to be the youngest ever winner of three consecutive World Championships go up in flames today when he locked himself out of his car on the starting grid of the Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit.
‘I was seated in the car, ready to go, when I had a last-minute change of heart about driving in sandals,’ said Vettel after the race. ‘So I jumped out to change, but before I realised what I’d done I’d slammed the door shut with the keys inside. What an idiot! I couldn’t believe it. It was so embarrassing.’
Armed with coat hangers, Vettel’s pit crew valiantly tried to pick the lock and prise the vehicle open where it stood on the starting grid, but they gave up after a third crew member was fatally struck by a passing racer. The Red Bull Racing team eventually turned for help to a young local lad who claimed to be ‘a bit handy with motors’, but having gained access to the car he drove off in it and the vehicle was only recovered three days later after being found burnt out in a supermarket car park.
Vettel’s gaffe now joins the list of other great professional racing bloopers, alongside Ayrton Senna getting halfway through the Monaco Grand Prix before remembering to take the handbrake off, Alain Prost begging other drivers to give him a jumpstart on the grid after having left his headlights on all night, and Nigel Mansell mistakenly registering for the Tour De France. But perhaps the most memorable error in Formula One history remains Michael Schumacher’s wife taking his car to the shops, leaving the German legend to attempt the circuit in her Ford Focus.
Textbook (hat-tip to RickH)